An often-repeated argument in favor of religion is that it provides an objective morality. Without God, the argument goes, there is no objective morality, because without a Supreme Being to tell us what is right and wrong, my interpretation of morality and your interpretation of morality are equally valid. Yet there must be an objective morality, therefore God must exist and He must have provided us with a moral code.
There are a number of problems with this argument.
1) The biblical code of morality does not match our modern-day sensibilities. While we would still agree with commandments such as “do not murder” and “do not commit adultery,” owning slaves, selling our young daughters, and killing witches goes against our (current) moral instincts. A God-given moral code should be applicable in all times and places.
2) It reduces us all to children, unable to control ourselves and in need of parental rules to restrain us from running wild. This may in part explain why people cling to this argument. Growing up we are used to rules being imposed on us by parents, teachers, and other rule givers. As adults we continue to submit ourselves to the authority of governments and other social institutions. It seems only natural that there should be a Supreme Rule-giver Who can tell us what we should do in all situations. An objective morality acts as a giant Classroom Rules poster plastered on the wall of the universe that everyone is bound to obey. If we’re good little boys and girls we get prizes in Heaven; if we break the rules we get detention in Gehenom.
Additionally, an objective morality makes decision making much easier. There is a set of rules constraining our choices, and when faced with a dilemma, one can compare the options to the rules and choose the option that violates the rules the least. We humans, in general, take as many shortcuts as possible when making decisions. If we had to sit and think through every decision we make, weighing the pros and cons and deliberating the best course of action, we would never get anything done. We use heuristics (rules-of-thumb) to help us make decisions, and a moral code can be thought of as an elaborate heuristic.
Thus an objective morality is not a necessity to the functioning of the universe the way that, say, the law of gravity is. Its just something that we would like to have because it would be convenient for us and make us feel certain about the way we and others should behave.
3) Most importantly, the argument is flawed because it makes the assumption that there really is such a thing as an objective morality. The theistic argument as stated is internally sound.
A) Without God (or some outside force superior to the individual person) there is no objective morality.
B) There must be an objective morality.
C) Therefore God must exist.
The problem is that B isn’t true. There is no reason that there must be an objective morality.
So without God there is no objective morality?
Deal with it.